- Groups deny abduction, killing of Fulani herdsmen
The groups described the allegation by the Department of State Services (DSS) that their members were responsible for the abduction and killing of Hausa/Fulani herdsmen in Abia State as false and a plot aimed at inciting genocide against the Igbo in the North.
Similarly, the Abia State Government described the report as embarrassing and an incitement. The groups said that killing was not part of their agenda. The DSS had, on Saturday in a statement issued in Abuja by Tony Opuiyo, stated that the Service had “uncovered the heinous role played by members of IPOB in the abduction/ kidnap of five Hausa-Fulani residents, namely Mohammed Gainako, Ibrahim Mohammed, Idris Yakubu, and Isa Mohammed Rago at Isuikwuato Local Government Area in Abia State.”
According to the DSS, the abducted men were later discovered at the Umuanyi forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves, amidst 50 other shallow graves of unidentified persons.
The secret police stated that arrest and investigation conducted so far, revealed that elements within the IPOB carried out this dastardly action. “It is pertinent, therefore, to alert the general public that IPOB is gradually showing its true divisive colour and objectives, while steadily embarking on gruesome actions in a bid to ignite ethnic terrorism and mistrust amongst non-indigenes in the South- East region and other parts of the country.
Following this act, tension is currently rife among communal stakeholders in the state with possibilities of spillover to other parts of country. “Against the foregoing, the Service will not hesitate to act decisively within its statutory mandate to ensure that the sponsors and perpetrators of this action are apprehended and prosecuted for their crime,” DSS stated.
Reacting to the allegation yesterday, IPOB Media and Publicity Officer, Emma Powerful and MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, said that the pro-Biafra groups had nothing to do with the said abduction and killing.
According to Powerful, the allegation was part of Federal Government’s grand design to tag IPOB as a terror movement, to blackmail it and find grounds to decimate its members, which to him was a case of giving a dog a bad name to justify its hanging. The IPOB spokesman said:
“They want to create pandemonium and provoke genocide against the Igbo in the North. It is a creation of DSS Abuja to discredit them as a terrorist group.” He noted that killing was not on the agenda of IPOB, since they were organised freedom seekers, recognised by the United Nations and not terrorists. His words:
“IPOB has never for once planned to attack anybody because what we are pursuing is more than killing herdsmen. We are pursuing the restoration of Biafra and not after Hausa or Fulani people. We are not part of any abduction or killing of herdsmen. We are not kidnappers. We are mature. “The allegation was concocted to portray IPOB as a terrorist organisation. If at all people killed herdsmen, they are not IPOB members.
If we were to kill, we would have retaliated the killing of our members by security men. So, if we did not kill the security men that are killing our members here and there, why should we start killing Hausa or Fulani?
“It is ridiculous for DSS to link us with any killing at Isuikwuato. What we are saying is that they should look for the killers elsewhere and not among IPOB members. We don’t operate in secret. We take responsibility for any action we take and that is why we make our agitation for Biafra public. ”
When security men killed our members and buried them in shallow graves, we never retaliated, and why should we kill people that have not killed us? If herdsmen have issues with villagers or farmers, they should try and sort out themselves and not drag IPOB into it.” Madu, while reacting to the allegation, dismissed it as one “lacking merit and evidence because MASSOB and IPOB were nonviolent organisations”. He said:
“This is the highest frustration exhibited by Nigerian security agents against Biafra agitators to blackmail them as violent and terrorists, so as to see evidence against Nnamdi Kanu.” He said: “MASSOB or IPOB can never be deterred or jittery because of frivolous and baseless allegation of frustrated DSS.” The MASSOB leader, therefore, urged South- East Governors to quickly convene a stakeholders’ meeting on “the menace of Fulani fundamentalists” in the zone.
When journalists sought confirmation, the Abia State Director of DSS was said to be out of the office. Sources at the state DSS command could neither confirm the allegation of killing and abduction of Fulani herdsmen nor were they aware of the exact spot in the state where the incident took place. When contacted, the Abia State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Onyeke Udeviotu, said the command was not aware of it.
“We are not in the picture,” he said. Meanwhile, the Abia State government has expressed displeasure with the report that IPOB and MASSOB members were responsible for the abduction and burial in a shallow grave of Fulani herdsmen.
The government said the report was an embarrassment. Reacting to the report, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr. Godwin Adindu, said there was no report to that effect “either from the police or army or even the DSS itself in Abia State” and wondered how the DSS in Abuja could not confirm from their men on ground before going to the public.
“I just spoke to the state Director of DSS and he denied knowledge of any such development,” Adindu said. He expressed worries that the report was capable of instigating violent reprisal in parts of the country.
The governor’s spokesman said that a crime of such magnitude could not take place in the state without any security report from the State Security Council, saying, “the state government is embarrassed by the report.